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1 23-03-2015 MILITARY CULTURE IN THE WAFFEN-SS: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON CONTEMPORARY MILITARY CULTURES Prof. Niels Bo Poulsen, Royal Danish Defense.

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Presentation on theme: "1 23-03-2015 MILITARY CULTURE IN THE WAFFEN-SS: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON CONTEMPORARY MILITARY CULTURES Prof. Niels Bo Poulsen, Royal Danish Defense."— Presentation transcript:

1 MILITARY CULTURE IN THE WAFFEN-SS: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE ON CONTEMPORARY MILITARY CULTURES Prof. Niels Bo Poulsen, Royal Danish Defense College

2 Structure of my presentation What was the Waffen-SS (W-SS)? Military culture in the W-SS Factors structuring the military culture of the W-SS The erosion of military culture in the W-SS Concluding remarks Danish SS-soldiers passing though a burning village in Russia.

3 The Waffen-SS – a multinational army Out of app soldiers: Germans from Germany Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) Latvians Dutch Yugoslav Moslems Flemish Ukrainians Estonians Wallonians French, Danes, Norwegians, Italians, etc…

4 What was the Waffen- SS? An integral part of Himmler’s SS- and police empire A self proclaimed racial and political elite within the Nazi movement A volunteer force to be used against domestic unrest in war The W-SS grew from a few thousand men in 1934 to 36 divisions in 1945 Norwegian Waffen-SS recruitment poster, The poster refers both to the “Aryan” ideal and to Norway’s Viking past.

5 Military culture in the Waffen-SS Based on Nazi norms, values and assumptions = political soldiers Aggressive style of warfare High losses (?) Formal military education less emphasized High degree of unit cohesion, low desertion rate No quarter to POWs or civilians The French village Oradour in which SS- soldiers killed around 650 unarmed civilians in June 1944.

6 6 6 th South African Armoured Division Fights 16 SS Panzergrenadier division “Reichsführer-SS” in Northern Italy fall 1944 The 6 th SAAD on the fighting qualities of the SS troops: - “The morale very high” - “Strong and fanatical band” - “Fanatical disregard of [our] defensive fire” In two large massacres the 16 SS div. kills around civilians 6 th SAAD Victory Parade at Monza, Italy. 14 July Ruins of Marzabotto where the W-SS killed 770 civilians.

7 Structuring factors Age Political indoctrination/totalitarian framework Hard discipline and SS jurisdiction Generous allotment of equipment and manpower Reputation as a modern force with careers open to all Fear of capture SS-tank commander Michael Wittmann and his crew in front of a Tiger tank.

8 Challenges to the mil. cult. of the Waffen-SS Enormous expansion during the war Volunteering is partly replaced by draft Recruitment of “non- aryan” nationalities Sönke Neitzel (2002): “The Waffen-SS never existed: instead there was a hotchpotch of 36 divisions…” Above: The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Husseini in 1943 inspecting Bosnian Moslem troops under SS command.

9 Contact details Phone: webpage:


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